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Decommissioning

Although it is imperative that we shut down nuclear plants, they remain dangerous, and expensive even when closed. Radioactive inventories remain present on the site and decommissioning costs have been skyrocketing, presenting the real danger that utilities will not be able to afford to properly shut down and clean up non-operating reactor sites.

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Tuesday
Oct232012

Nearly half of the atomic reactors on Lake Michigan's shores have closed over the past 15 years

NRC file photo of KewauneeFrom The Washington Post: "Dominion Resources Inc. said Monday that it plans to close and decommission its Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin after it was unable to find a buyer for the nuclear power plant".

As nuclear power continues to crumble under the weight of its own disastrous economics, Dominion CEO, Thomas F. Farrell II,  becomes the latest industry CEO to lose confidence in the nuclear business. "This decision was based purely on economics," Farrell said. Dominion also operates the two North Anna, VA reactors, where a proposed third reactor plan looks fragile at best. It also operates Millstone, CT and Surry, VA.

A buyer could not be found, even though the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had already rubberstamped a 20 year license extension at Kewaunee. Today, Dominion notified NRC that it plans to decommission Kewaunee.

Reuters also reported on this story, stating that more atomic reactors could follow suit, their bad economics forcing their closure:

"Especially vulnerable under this scenario would be small, old single reactor sites.

Other units that could be on the hit list because they fit the profile include Exelon Corp's Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Xcel Energy Inc's Monticello in Minnesota, and Entergy Corp's Palisades in Michigan, Vermont Yankee in Vermont and Pilgrim in Massachusetts."

In 1997, Big Rock Point in Michigan was permanently closed, as were Zion 1 & 2 in Illinois in 1998. Kewaunee's closure in 2013 will be the fifth reactor shut down on Lake Michigan's shores in 15 years. This will leave Point Beach 1 & 2 in WI, Palisades in MI, and Cook 1 & 2 in MI still operating on Lake Michigan's shores. Lake Michigan is a headwaters for the Great Lakes, 20% of the world's surface fresh water, providing drinking water for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Americans.

Several years ago, Kewaunee had more NRC "yellow findings" (the second highest category of safety violation) than the other (at the time) 102 operating reactors in the entire country. The very same year, Point Beach had more "red findings" (NRC's worst category of safety violation) than the rest of the industry combined. Kewaunee and Point Beach are a mere seven miles apart, the same distance as between Fukushima Daiichi and Daini in Japan. Daiichi and Daini's proximity, as well as their proximity to Tokai nearer Tokyo, led the Japanese federal government to prepare worst case scenario plans to evacuate 30 million people from Tokyo in the event of a "demonic chain reaction" of reactor melt downs and radioactive waste storage pool fires.

An NRC daily event report revealed that Dominion's announcement to decommission Kewaunee caused a security incident, as reporters descended on the reactor to cover the story.

The New York Times and Greenwire have also reported on this story.

Wednesday
Oct172012

"Regulators should begin decommissioning the Palisades Nuclear Plant"

NRC file photo of Palisades atomic reactor

Mark Muhich, a Jackson County resident and chairman of the Central Michigan Group of the Sierra Club, has published a column by the title above at the Jackson Citizen Patriot/MLive. Muhich concluded his column:

"It is time to decommission the crumbling Palisades nuclear facility. Decommissioning will take a decade, and employ thousands of workers. It will also cost $1 billion. The electricity it generates can be made up with efficiencies. Entergy operates six of the oldest most poorly maintained nuclear plants in the county. The NRC should hold Entergy to a stricter standard of safety, not a more relaxed standard. The NRC should begin the decommissioning of Palisades."

But quite to the contrary, NRC rubberstamped Palisades' 20 year license extension in 2007, despite widespread environmental opposition not only in Michigan but throughout the Great Lakes basin.

Tuesday
Jul032012

Dr. Judith H. Johnsrud receives national Sierra Club Award

This quilt Judy is admiring was created by textile artist Margaret Gregg of Virginia, and was given to her on May 4th by the Sierra Club "No Nukes Activist Team" in honor of her 50 years of anti-nuclear leadership. It reads "JUDITH: PROTECTING LIFE FOREVER."Leon Glicenstein, a life-long friend and supporter of Dr. Judith H. Johnsrud, has written an article for the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter's Summer 2012 newsletter The Sylvanian about the national Sierra Club and the Sierra Club "No Nukes Activist Team" recognition ceremony, held May 4th in Takoma Park, Maryland, honoring Judy's half-century of anti-nuclear leadership not only locally, regionally, and nationally, but even globally. Judy is a founding board member of Beyond Nuclear. Included in Leon's article is a partial list of anti-nuclear victories Judy helped win in her home state of Pennsylvania alone. These have included the following decommissionings:

Quehana decommissioned: aircraft engine, Penn State reactor, wood products irradiation;

Waltz Mill reactor accident clean-up, decommissioned;

Saxton Experimental reactor decommissioned.

Beyond Nuclear posted a tribute to Judy shortly after the ceremony, which includes more photos of the presentation of her quilt (see photo, left), as well as links to writings by Judy, such as her brief history of the Environmental Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, which she founded and led for many decades.

Tuesday
Jul032012

Declaration of Independence from proposed Fermi 3 new atomic reactor: "No indoctrination without representation!" regarding Fermi 1 meltdown history 

A cover on the 1975 non-fiction book by John G. Fuller, "We Almost Lost Detroit," about the 1966 meltdown at the Fermi 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor in Monroe, MichiganBeyond Nuclear and its allies in the intervention against the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor in Monroe, Michigan have filed their 25th contention opposing the proposed new atomic reactor, citing a violation of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). NRC, Detroit Edison and the State of Michigan have finalized a NHPA mitigation Memorandum of Agreement about the demolition of the Fermi 1 containment shell, despite its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, in order to make room for the construction of Fermi 3, a General Electric-Hitachi so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR) . However, the decisions were made without even notifying -- let alone involving -- the public, a violation of NHPA. The coalition has issued a media release.

The intervenors have cited Atomic Energy Commission,Nuclear Power Development Corporation (Dow Chemical, Detroit Edison, et al.), U.S. congressional testimony, anddocumentation on how close the Fermi 1 meltdown of October 5, 1966 came to a "terrifying," catastrophic radioactivity release. The coalition's attorney, Terry Lodge of Toledo, has argued that the Fermi 1 archive must include documentation of the experimental plutonium breeder reactor's original goal of generating weapons-grade plutonium for U.S. hydrogen bombs, as well as materials for radiological ("dirty bomb") weaponry. "The 'official' narrative of this 20th century failure must not be hijacked for use as pro-industry promotion by the 21st century nuclear industry," Lodge said.

"The story of Fermi 1's nearly catastrophic failure offers a large window into the history of commercial nuclear power, an institutional void of safety culture within the primary regulatory agency, and nuclear power’s inherent weapons connection," said Keith Gunter of Livonia, Michigan, a launch partner of Beyond Nuclear and an official intervenor against Fermi 3. "After all, as John G. Fuller's book and Gil Scott-Heron's song titles put it, 'We Almost Lost Detroit,' not to mention Monroe, Toledo, and beyond," Keith Gunter added. (see image, above left)

Saturday
May222010

Leaking Sr-90 will increase Vermont Yankee's eventual decommissioning costs

Entergy Nuclear has now admitted that the bone-seeking radioisotope Strontium-90 has been discovered in soil near underground leaking pipes at its Vermont Yankee atomic reactor on the bank of the Connecticut River. Several years ago, Sr-90 was also detected leaking from the high-level radioactive waste storage pool at Entergy Nuclear's Indian Point atomic reactors on the bank of the Hudson River in New York State. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates warns that Sr-90, which is highly soluble in water, can concentrate in bones and cause leukemia, and thus is the most hazardous radioisotope yet discovered leaking into the environment at the 38 year old reactor just across the Connecticut River from New Hampshire, and just several miles upstream from Massachusetts. Gundersen points out that this latest discovery means eventual decommissioning costs will climb yet higher at Vermont Yankee. Entergy Nuclear has contributed nothing to Vermont Yankee's inadequate decommissioning fund since taking over ownership and operations in 2002. Other leaking elements discovered into the site's groundwater and soil include tritium, cobalt-60, cesium-137, manganese-54 and zinc-65. Raymond Shadis of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution is very skeptical that Entergy Nuclear's assurances that all Sr-90 contamination at Vermont Yankee has now been accounted for and cleaned up.